Thursday 8 June 2023

Lets Look For Orchids

Most people don't even know that we have orchids growing wild in this country. OK, they're not the spectacular blooms you see in the garden centres, but once you know they're there it can be every bit as addictive to seek them out. 

I'm a bit late to see the earliest ones, but there's bound to be some infiltrating the buttercup meadows of Fulbourn Fen.

Firstly we must walk along this laneway through the trees, most of which are now in full leaf. There's plenty of birdsong, though finding them is another matter.

Then we'll cross a meadow where White Campion blooms brightly. It's a bit too dry for the orchids I think. Then we need to cross the old moat....

Actually there is a shorter route, but I like this path and I thought you might like to see all that remains of the moat which once surrounded an old manor house.

Then it's orchids, orchids, orchids.....

Most of these are, I think, Southern Marsh Orchids, though there might be a Common Spotted Orchid or two among them. And that's a Twayblade, second from the right and not looking particularly impressive. Twayblade is an orchid too.

There didn't seem to be quite as many blooms as there were last year at this time. Still an impressive show though.

There's something about this crazily leaning tree, the narrow boardwalk and the Yellow Flags or Wild Iris that always demands that I stop to take some photos.

We're out of the nature reserve now and heading towards Fleam Dyke, which is only a short walk away.

That's the end of the Dyke, but this mighty earthwork runs for at least 3 miles (5km) across the Cambridgeshire countryside. The digging of the ditch and piling up of the bank took place between 330 and 610 AD, with several phases of construction.

It's just one of a series of defensive ditches that stretched across the open chalk lands, from the dense woods in the south, to the swampy Fens in the north. The exact history remains a mystery - it may have been to defend a territory from attack, or else to control the trade routes across the country. 

There's a path that traverses the full length of the bank and lets you see down into the deep dyke alongside - or at least it would if it were not full of trees and bushes!

In my memory the bank was also more open some years ago with more space for wild flowers, though I did find a few common blooms like the Goat's Beard above. It's the British equivalent of the Mediterranean Salsify that I showed you a few weeks ago.

The top of the rampart does however give good views across the agricultural land to the west. And there's some of that pinkish hawthorn blossom once again. After a while we decided to turn back towards Fulbourn Fen once more.

Couldn't resist a few more flower pics.

One of those spectacular Flags growing down by the boardwalk.

Then it was time to leave the best of the orchid meadows and go across the cattle pastures, past the lovely old oak trees, through the wood (now full of ferocious wild animals and blood-thirsty pirates - or possibly just some imaginative 10-year-olds) and back to where we'd parked the car.

Take care.


  1. Wild orchids are often smaller - but no less beautiful.
    Thank you - and I enjoyed the whole walk.

  2. Wild orchids are only unimpressive (I shudder to even phrase it that way) when compared with their showy cousins from the garden centres and nurseries. When I observe them in their natural settings I am delighted and find them no less appealing. Great walk, as always, John.

  3. White campion - years since I saw any - always plenty of pink but I love white flowers and they look as though they have a good foothold in that field. I have a pink flower in my garden - it was given me by a friend - which has a campion-like flower and habit. It does not like this dry weather and is really suffering. I think campion must like dampish ground.

  4. It is lovely to see these meadows with wild flowers. A friend posted a photo of a bee orchid yesterday, it was extraordinary.

  5. Must beware of the pirates which are hiding behind every cow, or perhaps those are dragons impersonating cows, just waiting for you to look the other way with your camera so they can attack! Beautiful wild orchids. We have quite a few too!

  6. All the blooming wild flowers there are so beautiful. I love these nice long walks you take and all the things you see.

  7. Those orchids are lovely little things. Thanks for the hike, John.

  8. Aunque sean silvestres , son bastante agradables para la vista.
    Un abrazo

  9. The orchids are beautiful and nice to see. Thank you for the walk, John.

  10. Gorgeous - not always easy to spot either.

  11. This brings back memories of living on a farm in Sussex - the driveway had a good crop of bee orchids in the grass either side, although not every year.

  12. I love the orchids and that second photo just draws me in. Perfect!

  13. Great composition. Dreamy fields and floral portraits. Especially the creamy bokeh

  14. It takes effort to get pot and find these flowers . One has to know what is there and then hunt for it. Nice photos of the various flowers.

  15. It wasn't until the close up photo that I could see that they were indeed orchids. marvelous specimen. That dyke activated my curiosity. Has any part of it been excavated by archaeologists?

    1. We're only a few miles from Cambridge and many of the learned men of the nineteenth century were "antiquarians" who investigated pretty much every obvious earthwork in the area, including Fleam Dyke. Most of what they did was fairly unscientific - just digging holes to see what they could find. In the1920s it was more systematically investigated. Then in more recent years the widening of the A11 road allowed more work to be done. What they found in all cases wasn't particularly exciting - no hoards of gold, sites of battles etc. They did however find that the construction of the dyke took place in many distinct phases and that's been taken to mean that the dyke had been fought over, taken and re-taken many times while it formed an important demarcation and barrier between the territories of two tribes.

  16. What an absolutely splendid outing you have taken us on, John. The colour of the orchids is quite stunning against the lush green of the field.
    I love your final, 'rural' scene. I took several photos of cows in a field on my morning walk today. Such a contrast of settings,

  17. You can never have too many flower photos, the orchids are beautiful:)

  18. The orchids are gorgeous, including the less showy yellow-green Twayblade. Love the shot of the crazily leaning tree and Yellow Flag. Easy to see why it always demands you stop for a photo or two. Thank you for another lovely walk.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  19. How surprising to see yellow flag in England! We have it here in West Virginia, where it can be quite invasive in damp ground. Still, I do like it very much.

  20. I so would like to be able to ramble there! I just love that pathway, and that last photo is wonderful.

  21. Hi John - totally delightful - I'm so pleased you blog, and that you live in that stunning area of this little land of ours - cheers Hilary


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